In a province where women make up virtually half of the population, having less than 15 per cent of those women in legislature rings far less alarm bells than it should. To be a true form of democracy, our political spectrum should be a reflection of the society it was built to represent.
When talking about the absence of women in politics, all kinds of startling facts can be brought up. Not one of Canada’s premiers is a woman. In Alberta, only 2 out of 19 cabinet ministers are women. Kim Campbell-our only female prime minister-lasted in office for just four months. Heck, women haven’t even had the vote for a century yet.
The United Nations has a lot of lofty goals, but I’m of the opinion that having at least 30 per cent of representatives in national assemblies be represented by women isn’t one of them. In Canada, a nation consisting of citizens privileged enough to have the opportunity to educate themselves, the importance of building a system that is at least somewhat close to representing its citizens proportionately should be not only apparent, but urgent.
Despite minor transgressions, we live in a place and time where women have every opportunity to enter the political arena. Yet too many women choose not to run. There are a million reasons not to choose a life in politics, but why are women affected by these in such a disproportionate ratio compared to men?
When the discussion arises, many reasons are cited, including influences from old-fashioned parents, influence of a media slanted towards portraying women as experts of the arts and social issues rather than economics and security and-arguably the most common-woman’s genetic urge to nurture.
When speaking with Conservative MLA Alana DeLong, she discussed women’s low levels of testosterone as a probable cause for the lack of females in the political arena. Politics is a scary game she explained, and women are less apt to do scary things. This may have some basis in reality, but citing women’s hormones as the reason for the gross misbalance in our system seems like a cop-out to me. A democratic system should be built to accommodate the people it represents, and if it doesn’t, it has failed.
Time and time again, election promises are made to fill cabinets with more women in last ditch attempts to get women out to the polls. Recently, Liberal Party of Canada leader Stéphane Dion said that one third of his national Liberals would be ladies, but, for political leaders such as Dion to fill their cabinet with women, they need to have women to choose from.
Despite the obvious need for more women leaders, our priority should be electing the most suited candidate for the job. And if more women don’t step up to the plate, I can assure you those candidates are not going to be female.
Getting more women in office shouldn’t be centralized; legislated quotas and reserved seats for women are not only forms of discrimination, but are an insult, promoting the idea that women need handicaps in order have a fair shot. Take Your Place, a provincial Liberal campaign aimed to get women to run in elections, is a step in the right direction, but it remains to be seen if small scale programs such as this can have a wide-spread impact.
To quote Canada’s famous women’s right activist Doris Anderson, “Do we need more women in politics? Damn right we do.”
Regardless of the details, women must make up a higher percentage in our electoral system, and soon.